Category Archives: Michal Clements

Does your relationship have a 48-hour rule? Los Angeles enjoys talk on dual career insights with moderator Denise Winner (W’83, PAR’21) and speakers Ilene Gordon (MIT’75) and Bram Bluestein (Lafayette ’69)

by Michal Clements W’84, WG’89

On September 15, 2020, Penn, Wharton, MIT and Harvard alumni in the greater Los Angeles area explored the topic of dual careers, in a conversation expertly moderated by Denise Winner W’83, PAR’21 with speakers Ilene Gordon (MIT ‘75) and Bram Bluestein (Lafayette ’69). 

The “Doubling Down: Secrets of Dual Career Success” program was jointly led by three alumni groups: The Penn Club of LA, The Wharton Club of Southern California and The MIT Club of Southern California.  Approximately ninety people registered and more than thirty in attendance.  A private question and answer session for alumni club members followed the main event. 

Audience feedback received:

“Love the 48-hour rule.”

“It really was a fantastic conversation and event. I planned to only pop in for a few minutes (work project deadline) but ended up being drawn in by Bram & Ilene! Their candor, storytelling, substantive and meaningful insights & takeaways, warm spirits etc. “

“Great advice early in relationship/marriage.” 

As background, Ilene is retired chairman, president and CEO of Ingredion Incorporated. Currently she is presiding director of International Paper and a director of Lockheed Martin. She is a vice chair of the board of trustees of The Conference Board; a member of the MIT Corporation board of trustees; and on the executive committee of The Economic Club of Chicago.   

Bram has been helping companies build transformative brands for his entire career. Prior to Bluestein & Associates, Bram worked as a Senior Advisor at McNally Capital, enabling family offices to capitalize on opportunities in the private equity space. This followed a 35+ year career as a management consultant at Booz Allen Hamilton™, A.T. Kearney, and The Boston Consulting Group, serving clients across industries and geographies.

Denise Winner has over three decades of experience in financial services and consulting. Her significant involvement with start-ups and financial service firms provided her with the background to successfully launch Winner Squared, a consulting firm focused on business analysis and financial engineering. Denise is also a dual career partner.

Time flew by in this rich conversation, and the recording of the event is available to all active members of the Penn Club of LA, The Wharton Club of Southern California and the MIT Club of Southern California. 

Ilene and Bram are currently working on a book about the dual career journey, and are supplementing their own experience with new research on how dual career couples are navigating COVID. 

If Penn dual career alumni are interested to participate, please email


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Blue Skies for Penn Women in Tech: TCPW Career Networking Event at Headspace

By Michal Clements, W’84, WG’89


Moderator: Denise Winner, W’83, PAR’21. Panelists: Rebecka “Becky” Zavaleta, C’13; Lilian Haney, C’06; and Bhavini Soneji, VP Engineering, Headspace.

Fifty Penn alumni and guests enjoyed the “Blue Skies Women in Tech” 2019 LA Women’s Career Networking event. The program included speed networking, guided meditation, and the Women in Tech career panel. This was the second year in a row the Trustees’ Council of Penn Women and Penn Club LA held the event at Headspace in Santa Monica.

TCPW member Denise Winner W’83, PAR’21, President & CEO of Winner Squared moderated the panel. I learned from this that Denise has been focused on AI since the late 1980s.

Women in Tech 2019 Panelists were Penn Club LA board member Rebecka “Becky” Zavaleta C’13, Product Manager, Data Sciences, ZEFR; Penn Alumni Lilian Haney C’06, Director of Communications, AirMap;  and Bhavini Soneji, VP Engineering, Headspace.

Others who made the event happen were TCPW’s Carolyn Enenstein, Denise Winner, and Michal Clements, Wharton Club of So Cal leaders Elizabeth Kopple and Anissa Finerman, Penn Club of LA board member Amanda Rykoff, and Penn Alumni Relations Christa Lembach and Terri Welsh.

Topics discussed were pivoting to the tech sector, staying current with the latest developments, big data, AI, human in the loop. Career advice included:

  • Stay flexible – don’t necessarily have one “big” mentor, instead many people who help
  • Mentally push through when faced with a challenge, whether it’s a project challenge or trying a new activity that will help with career and work
  • Don’t limit yourself
  • Leverage the power of the customer when pushing back from product management to engineering

This evening was hosted by Headspace who also provided delicious food and beverages.   Thank you to all!


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Fireside Chat on Algorithms and Machine Intelligence in Silicon Beach

By Michal Clements, W’84, WG’89

Conversational Context

On April 4, 2019, forty Penn alumni, family, friends and work colleagues came together In the offices of Silicon beach based content targeting firm Zefr to gain insight into machine learning and algorithms. The fireside chat featured Wharton Professor Kartik Hosanagar, author of the just-released  “A Human’s Guide to Machine Intelligence: How Algorithms are Shaping Our Lives and How We can Stay in Control” and was moderated by Bing Chen C’09.

The evening began with welcomes from Penn Club of Los Angeles President, Omid Shokoufandeh W’09 and host Zefr’s Product Manager Data Science Rebecka Zavaleta, C’13.

Frankly Penn Kartik Photo #1

Attendees included Penn alumni and local colleagues who currently work directly in machine learning and artificial intelligence as well as alumni of all ages who were interested to learn more about these topics, including a Penn graduate from the class of 1957 and 1969.

Frankly Penn Kartik Photo #2

Topics Explored

  • The trend is towards reinforcement learning where the AI creates its own data vs. supervised learning where a training data set is used
  • We all have subconscious biases and algorithms learn from data based on human decisions, therefore the algorithms develop and reflect those biases
  • There are many examples of algorithm failures, whether the algorithms are ruled based (i.e., from the programmer) or reinforcement learning based
  • While diversity in the team developing algorithms is desirable, many AI teams are quite small in size (i.e., with three or four people), and it’s not realistic to have all diversity represented within them (even if the talent pool were a perfect reflection of diversity)
  • Case example: Amazon discovered that their resume screening algorithm had a gender bias which reflected the gender bias in the underlying data. While “almost no one” is testing for bias, Amazon was and moved to correct this issue
  • Case example: a Microsoft chatbot named XiaoIce “works” with forty million followers in China (a place where there are many rules on what to not say in social media), while a similar Microsoft chatbot named Tay failed spectacularly in the US. This example is explored in the book’s opening
  • Humorous case example of gaming the system: given our notorious LA traffic, and widespread use of Waze and Google Maps, one audience member regularly reports (falsely) slowdowns in his local neighborhood to prevent traffic from being routed through the area, thereby creating congestion

Predictions (some already in existence)

  • Machines will be able to detect emotions and use that information
  • Expect an exponential increase in capabilities from AI in our lifetime. Examples on the near term and current horizons are driverless cars and smart cities (at the combination of AI and IOT)
  • We have and will have AI that is creative (e.g., art, music)

Ideas to Address the Biases and Navigate an Algorithmic World

  • In the book, Prof. Hosanagar presents “A Bill of Rights” to address some of the dangers and challenges around algorithms. Some of the solutions include:
    • Transparency, particularly in socially critical settings
    • Human in the Loop
    • Auditing the algorithm

All of us are impacted daily by algorithms, and I hope our Penn alumni who are lifelong learners will educate themselves, and will also have the opportunity to see and hear from Professor Hosanagar on this topic.




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Ira Israel, C’88, Shares How to Cultivate Authentic Relationships with Los Angeles area Penn alumni and guests

By Michal Clements, W’84, WG’89

On January 29, 2019, over a hundred Penn alumni and guests gathered at General Assembly in Santa Monica to experience Ira Israel’s, C’88, signature presentation on “How to Cultivate Authentic Relationships.”

Ira Israel Frankly Penn


Ira is the author of , “How To Survive Your Childhood Now That You’re an Adult: A Path to Authenticity and Awakening,” and also the creator of the best-selling “A Beginner’s Guide to Happiness,” “A Beginner’s Guide to Mindfulness Meditation,” “Mindfulness for Anxiety,” and “Mindfulness for Depression” video series.  The book is currently rated five stars on Amazon and is highly recommended.

Ira Israel 2

During the evening, Ira first engaged the audience with thought-provoking content including video clips and visuals. Ira broke the crowd into pairs, assigned interactive exercises, and gave us the chance to apply the concepts presented. This allowed each audience member to go a step beyond simply listening to the presentation, and to apply specific practices designed to bring more happiness and loving relationships into their lives.


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Penn Serves LA 2016 – 2017 Year in Review

Penn Serves LA logo volunteering with Penn Alumni in Los Angeles

Since 2012, Penn Serves LA has been dedicated to the mission of providing Penn alumni with vetted opportunities for meaningful community service in the Los Angeles area. We work with a diverse mix of community organizations, with hands-on programs in a variety of locations throughout the city, all under our motto of SERVE, LEARN and HAVE FUN too. In some cases, Penn alumni become involved with the organizations we serve on an ongoing basis.

The projects and the impact of Penn Serves LA, along with the engagement of our participants, during 2016-2017 are described below. This past year, Penn Alumni, along with their families and friends, participated in a broad array of service activities across a wide swath of the LA region. Our projects included home building, fruit picking, blanket crocheting, food re-purposing, fluorescent painting, and literacy celebrating.

We have already kicked off our 2017 – 2018 year of activities with several events:

A calendar of impactful activities and projects for the year ahead is scheduled, and we look forward to working alongside Penn alumni, families and friends in 2018. Confirmed events for 2018 include:

We welcome all Penn alumni and their families and friends to participate at our events and are deeply grateful to the many people who participated in our projects last year, whether one time or frequently.  Through active engagement, Penn Serves LA builds bonds among our alumni, across all years and schools, while contributing to the strength of our great city.

Please Email us to be added to our Penn Serves email list. And Like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter and Instagram.

Penn Serves LA 2016 – 2017 Year in Review

Read about all the people and animals that have benefited from the efforts of our Penn Serves LA volunteers during the last academic year (click on the date to read about our event and on the organization name to learn more about the organizations we helped).

October 2016: Got Books? Led by CEO and Penn alumnus Parker Hudnut, ICEF Public Schools is a Los Angeles based charter operator that oversees nine inner-city charter schools serving over 3,500 K-12 students. Penn volunteers staffed a wonderful literacy day, helping with craft projects, reading to kids, and generally sharing their love of books with the eager young students and their families.

Penn Serves LA volunteers at ICEF public schools

Penn Serves LA volunteers and ICEF staff with books

November 2016: Alumni made a visit to LA Kitchen, an organization working to empower, nourish and engage our community by reclaiming and repurposing healthy, local food that would otherwise be discarded. Alumni donned aprons and wielded large knives to convert bruised fruits and vegetables into healthy meals for seniors and the disadvantaged.

Penn Serves LA volunteers with L.A. Kitchen after food prep

Penn Serves LA volunteers pose with members of L.A. Kitchen after a morning spent chopping, slicing and dicing food.

January 2017: Penn Serves volunteers were trained in the art of crocheting with the lofty goal of creating soft, cheerful handmade blankets. Blankets of Love donates these works of love to bring some sense of security and joy to babies leaving Martin Luther King, and other area hospitals, with mothers and families who have little or no means, or who are living on the street.


January 2017: We toasted Ben Franklin’s birthday and the New Year at a festive cocktail party. Our attendees took a moment to share a bit of their Penn story and their motivation for engaging with Penn Serves LA. As is true at all events, a wonderful cross-section of Penn schools and years were represented and hearing the stories about people choosing to commit time and energy to improve our city was most inspiring.

A great crowd of alumni of all ages and backgrounds coming to learn about Penn Serves LA

A great crowd of alumni of all ages and backgrounds coming to learn about Penn Serves LA

April 2017: For the second time, Penn alumni partnered with Habitat for Humanity for a lengthy, exhausting and most memorable day of working on a new home side by side with the family that will live there. People caulked, sawed, framed, installed siding and generally felt terrific about learning new skills and contributing to creating a lovely home for a family in need.

Penn Serves LA helps Habitat for Humanity Los Angeles - volunteering Penn Alumni with Habitat LA

The Penn Serves LA group – proudly wearing the Red and the Blue – after helping Habitat LA

May 2017: On a very hot day, alumni drove great distances to Orcutt Farm to work with Food Forward, an organization that has “rescued” over 100 million servings of fresh local produce in the past eight years. We spent the afternoon in an orange grove with other volunteers and picked 6500 pounds of fresh oranges, which would be delivered that very day to some of the 300 shelters, senior centers, and agencies Food Forward serves.

Penn Serves LA at Food Forward

Penn Serves LA ready to help pick fruit for Food Forward

July 2017: It was a happy day when Penn Serves volunteers spent an afternoon using fantastic fluorescent colors to paint flowers on enormous disks. Portraits of Hope was started in 1995 to develop motivational art projects to provide creative therapy for children with special needs, and civic education for students, by producing dynamic public artworks. The 1000 disks we helped to create will be distributed to adorn and brighten animal shelters throughout the city.

Penn Serves LA Paints at Portraits of Hope in El Segundo

Penn Serves LA at Portraits of Hope

August 2017: For our final project of the academic year, our volunteers assisted LA Works, an umbrella organization that, like Penn Serves, strives to empower Angelenos to address pressing social issues through volunteerism and community collaborations. The activities this day were focused entirely on the pressing issue of family and youth homelessness, and we listened to first-hand stories, created fleece blankets, packed necessity kits and the like.

9.8.17 photo 1



About Penn Serves LA

Penn Serves LA logo volunteering with Penn Alumni in Los Angeles

Penn Serves LA impacts the Los Angeles community by engaging University of Pennsylvania alumni, parents and families in meaningful community service activities.

Since our founding in 2012, we have done everything from serving meals to the homeless to restoring the environment to fixing homes. Six times annually, we find another great opportunity to learn about interesting nonprofits, lend a hand and enjoy a fun experience with fellow alumni.

Join Us

We invite the Penn community in Los Angeles (alumni, parents, and kids) to join us at a future event, to help spread the word and to help us plan future activities. Join us, meet new Penn people, demonstrate what service means to your kids and friends, and help fellow Quakers make a little bit of difference in our complex city!

If you have an established nonprofit that you would like us to consider for future events or announcements, please let us know. We are looking for new nonprofits to serve in meaningful ways.

Contact Us

Questions? Want to join our email list? Reach us at

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Instagram and Twitter!

The Penn Serves LA Team

Christine Belgrad, W’85, PAR’15 | Michal Clements, W’84 | Justin Gordon, W’05 | Jane Gutman, CW’73, PAR’14, PAR’16 | Leanne Huebner, W’90 | Jamie Kendall, W’04 | Irene Park, C’05 | Kiera Reilly, C’93 | Michelle Wattana, C’09 | Denise Winner, W’83, PAR’21

Read about our previous events:




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Filed under Alumni Programming, Jane G., Kiera R., Los Angeles, Michal Clements, Penn Serves, Penn Serves LA, Volunteering

An Evening to Remember: Trustees’ Council of Penn Women (TCPW) Los Angeles Career Women’s Networking Event 2017 “Women in Entertainment”

By Michal Clements

Photo Credit: Moises Vazquez, Los Angeles. Instagram: @moisview  – Photo Gallery

The Trustees’ Council of Penn Women (TCPW) held the Los Angeles summer women’s career networking event in Santa Monica on Wednesday June 7, 2017.  Approximately seventy-five Penn alumnae and guests gathered among the fruit trees and jacarandas in the gardens of our hostess, Meredith Stiehm. The alumnae met with TCPW members during the opening speed-networking portion of the program, and to learn from the all-star entertainment panel as the centerpiece of the evening.

tcpw1Elizabeth Kopple (Wharton Club of So Cal board) and Rebecca Zavaleta (Penn Club of LA board) welcomed guests to the event.  Guests were directed to high top tables where TCPW Members led the lightning rounds of speed networking. Members present and leading the tables were TCPW Chair, Hildegard Toth, Meesh Pierce, Julie Platt, Melissa Weiler, Leanne Heubner, Denise Winner, Abby Feinman, and Donna Nadel.

tcpw1.2tcpw1.3The entertainment industry panel was expertly moderated by Fiedling Edlow (C’95). Panelists included Jennifer Gwartz (C’90), Meredith Stiehm (C’90) Alison Hoffman, Allison Schroeder and Veena Sud.  The discussion was lively, and there were a number of key takeaways that applied across industries, as well as some that were entertainment specific.  Some highlights include:

What advice would you give to your 22-year-old self?

  • Explore non-linear paths
  • Be kind to yourself. Remember nothing is wasted, and you are exactly where you need to be
  • There are no wrong jobs and no wrong experiences
  • Avoid thinking and writing about “how I ruined my career”
  • Have a lot more fun!

What’s an appropriate way to approach a mentor?

  • Research the mentor in advance, and if you make the ask, be really prepared
  • Invite them to an event. Instead of saying, “What can you do for me?” show them what you can do for them. Example: One Penn alumni sent an email for two years with a critique of the show
  • Let them know if you win an award, such as the Stanford playwriting award
  • Time your approach right. For example, avoid the middle of pilot season

How should you go about smart and effective networking?

  • Keep it casual and really light
  • Take them out for coffee
  • If it doesn’t work, move on, not all networking will
  • Never walk up to someone and say why they should NOT hire you or why others are not hiring you, e.g., people find me abrasive. Don’t belittle yourself

tcpw1.4How can you get the first job in entertainment?

  • Take a job as a PA (Production Assistant), which means you start at a really low level and get coffee and lunch
  • Be nice to the people around you
  • Whatever job you have, do a really good job of it
  • Be appreciative
  • You will likely have to get a second job or live at home, etc. to make ends meet with this first job

How can you get an agency that works for you?

  • Seek a smaller agency with someone that’s starting out. Suggestion is to find your peer as an agent. For example, one panelist had a “big name” agency, but realized that their “reps are not working for you” which was a painful realization
  • Make sure the agency has the right expertise, e.g., one panelist was given bad advice from a literary agent in New York because they weren’t knowledgeable on LA TV market

How did you deal with sexism in the industry?

  • Make your skin really, really tough
  • Look to your allies and make them aware. They can’t help if they don’t know
  • For example, if I (a woman) say something and nobody hears it, then a man says it and everyone notices, you have to call people on this. It happens all the time. Make your allies aware
  • Report actual sexual harassment. Don’t tolerate things like the “Fuck, Marry, Kill” game which asks, “Which of these three things should happen to a female colleague?”

How can you get by financially when at a low starting salary?

  • Live at home, share space and drive dad’s car or a used car. Live in the valley.
  • Supplement your income in one of several ways, e.g., by tutoring, being a script reader or an Uber or Lyft driver

What’s the next career milestone for the panelists?

  • Being the President of the United States
  • Running a network
  • Going back to the Academy Awards
  • Writing a novel
  • Continue having fun and working with others I enjoy


As a follow up from the event, alumni and student attendees were encouraged to consider forming writer’s groups, and to continue their involvement with Penn through alumni interviewing, Penn Serves LA community service, Penn Club LA and the Wharton Club of So Cal.

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Filed under Career Networking, Entertainment, Los Angeles, Michal Clements, TCPW